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Gone to Earth on Lovely Lyth Hill

Enjoy the glorious panoramic views that gave inspiration to the Shropshire novelist Mary Webb.

Distance 8 miles (12.9km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 548ft (167m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Cross-field paths, mostly well-maintained, about 30 stiles

Landscape Rolling farmland and views from Lyth Hill's grassy top

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 241 Shrewsbury

Start/finish SJ 473069

Dog friendliness Must be on leads near livestock, also at Exfords Green

Parking Car park in country park at top of Lyth Hill (signposted): OS map shows bus turning area, not car park

Public toilets None on route

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1 Head south on the Shropshire Way. Ignore a path branching right into Spring Coppice. The Way descends to a lane, where you turn left, then first right, on a track to Exfords Green.

2 Cross two stiles to skirt a former Primitive Methodist chapel, which is currently being modernised. Leave the Shropshire Way, going diagonally right across a field, heading for the far right corner. Cross a stile quite close to the corner and go through a copse until you come to a lane.

3 Cross to a path almost opposite, following the left-hand edge of a field until a stile gives access to another. Head diagonally across to a point close to the far right corner. Cross a wobbly stile and continue across another field, past two oak trees. A worn path goes obliquely right across the next two fields to meet a lane.

4 Turn right, then right again at the main road, to pass through Longden, and right again on School Lane. This descends very slightly to cross a brook, after which you go through a gate on the left and diagonally right across a field corner to a stile.

5 A yellow arrow directs you diagonally across the next field to a stile under an oak tree to the left of a telegraph post. Cross another field to reach a road. The path continues opposite, crossing two further fields until it meets a lane at Great Lyth. Turn right, keeping straight on at a junction, then turn left at the next.

6 Turn right on the access track to Lower Lythwood Hall and Holly Ash. At the latter, turn left as the track becomes a green lane leading to a field. Cross the field, passing a row of three oak trees, then keeping to the right of a pond to reach a stile by two oaks at the far side. In the next field go diagonally right, then through a gate and continue along a track for a few paces until you can cross a stile on the right.

7 Walk straight up a sloping field and turn left at the top. Cross a stile in the corner and keep going on along a worn path until you come to a waymarker, which directs you to the left, descending beside a brook to meet the road at Hook-a-gate.

8 Turn right for 200yds (183m), then right again on a footpath that climbs to join Hanley Lane at Bayston Hill. Continue to Overdale Road and turn right until you intercept the Shropshire Way at Lythwood Road. Turn right, following the Way to Lythwood Farm and then across fields to Lyth Hill, where you turn right to your starting point.

Lyth Hill, which is included within a small country park, is of modest height, attaining only 557ft (169m). It's mainly grassland, with areas of scrub and woodland which support a variety of birds such as great spotted woodpecker, wood warbler and tree pipit. The country park is popular with local people, especially dog walkers, as it's within walking distance of Shrewsbury suburbs such as Bayston Hill and Meole Brace, and it's a good place for picnics or kite-flying. Most of all though, it's ideal for simply sitting back and enjoying the superb view, which is extraordinary, all the more so for coming as something of a surprise. It includes the Clee Hills, Wenlock Edge, The Wrekin, the Stretton Hills, Long Mynd and Stiperstones.

This view inspired Mary Webb, or Mary Gladys Meredith as she was born in 1881 at Leighton, a small village south of Shrewsbury. In 1902 she moved with her family to Meole Brace, where she lived until her marriage to Henry Webb in 1912. Mary was a great walker and during the years spent at Meole Brace it was Lyth Hill that was her favourite destination. She was enchanted not only by the view, but also by the small wood called Spring Coppice. In 1917, after the publication of her first novel, the Webbs bought a plot of land on the hill and Spring Cottage was built for them. This was Mary's home, apart from a short spell in London, until her untimely death in 1927. The cottage is still there today, but much altered and extended.

Mary wrote several novels at Spring Cottage, but she achieved very little fame in her lifetime. It was only after her death that posthumous praise from the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, sparked off public interest and acclaim. Her best novels are considered to be Precious Bane and The Golden Arrow, while Gone to Earth was made into a film, shot in Shropshire in 1950. The interest in Mary's work waned and her novels are not fashionable today. Indeed, they're all too easy to make fun of and Stella Gibbons's classic Cold Comfort Farm was actually a parody of one of Mary's books (The House in Dormer Forest). But they are worth reading if you love Shropshire. Each is richly imbued with a strong sense of the local landscape. Few writers have been so much in tune with their surroundings, or so able to convey its atmosphere. Mary adored Shropshire and it shows in her books. It's easy to see why she felt so passionate about it, as you gaze out at the view from Lyth Hill, which she knew so well.

While you're there

Take a look at the craggy rocks near the viewpoint, at the top of the hill, near the car park. At first glance they look a little like concrete, but a closer inspection reveals that they are actually formed from conglomerate, which is composed of rounded pebbles embedded in a sandy matrix. This is a Precambrian sedimentary rock dating from around 650 million years ago.

Where to eat and drink

The flower-bedecked Tankerville Arms, at Longden, has hand-pulled traditional ales, which you can enjoy indoors or in the beer garden. A useful village shop stands close by, for stocking up on chocolate and crisps. Cygnets at Hook-a-gate offers a warm welcome to families. It serves cask ales and has a large garden, suitable for dogs.

What to look for

If you'd like to know more about Mary Webb, you might enjoy the excellent museum at the tourist information centre in Much Wenlock. Naturally, the focus is on Wenlock itself, but there is also lots about the Shropshire novelist, including a fascinating display of photographs of the filming of Gone to Earth in 1950. Kids needn't despair at the idea of a museum - there's plenty for them too.

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